ABCDelt

The ABC of ELT

My Experience Teaching With Android Wear

moto 360

Back sometime before Christmas time I picked up a Moto 360 to use. It became part of my day to day tool kit and I didn’t really think about writing anything about it. But now with the Apple Watch I realised that people might be interested in how to use wearables in the class room. This is my experience.

Students notice

The first thing to note is just how many students (and other teachers) noticed my smartwatch. In some cases they saw it as soon as I walked in, in other cases it took a bit longer but within a week or maybe two nearly every class had one student or another comment about my watch.

The watch doesn’t help in that if you make large, animated gestures with your hands (guilty) then the screen may well light up bringing further attention to itself.

Having said that, after the initial WOW, students quickly accepted and then ignored it. It just became normal very quickly. Though some tricks I have done on the device did catch peoples attention

Distraction less not distractionless

One of the biggest concerns I’ve heard people voice is that this would be distracting as it is so much closer. I don’t find it to be so but I’ve always been pretty good at ignoring the buzzing in my pocket. In fact, I find the buzzing much easier to ignore on the watch and when I do check, it is so easy to quickly glance at an opportune moment in class and then get back to the matter at hand. I can also quickly dismiss a notification that is really unimportant (like linkedin emails).

Having said that, not all apps are equal. I learnt to favour email apps that allow me to delete emails (not just archive) quickly and which only notify me of important emails (like Inbox by Gmail). I also often turn off the notifications during a class, something which can be achieved with a simple swipe down on the screen.

Searching

One of the cool tricks on the watch is conducting google voice searches on the go. In class this can be a fun way to quickly find out a piece of information that a student asks. Obviously it’s much better to allow them to conduct the research so I haven’t done this often as a teacher. Furthermore, doing a voice search draws a lot of attention from all the students, as such it’s not something I do often but has been useful on a couple of occasions.

Events

I love the event reminders on the watch. Seeing my up coming classes with a calculation of when I should leave is very useful to help me stay organised. This can be done on the phone but I’ve found it to be quicker on a wearable and stops me from going onto a twitter client or similar tool.

Timers

It’s strange to think but this is probably the best function of the watch that I’ve found so far. I like to set timers for certain activities with students (gist readings for example), and having a tool to quickly set one on the watch makes a lot of sense. However, I no longer do it as much on my watch. I learnt how to set a visible count down on our IWBs and that can often help to insure students are brief or extend their activities to match the remaining time.

Voice commands

As I’ve previously mentioned, voice commands are the primary way to interact with the watch and that causes some friction. They draw a lot of attention to the use of the device where as a few taps can be more discreet. This has probably limited my use of the device where I might in other situations.

Maps

On a few occasions I’ve had to teach lessons (or observe lessons) off site and having directions on a watch can be really great. On android wear it will dictate where you should go next and has a map which you can view on the device. It’s pretty useful and can be quite discreet (certainly more so that standing around in a place you don’t know with a phone out) but people can still hear it.

I understand the Apple watch uses taps to tell you where to go, this is probably a better implementation.

General living

The device has been fun to use in a few other situations. Things like foursquare recommendation for restaurants, museums and cafes to try out, the fitness tracking and sleep monitoring or the easy to view todo/shopping list. These can be particularly useful in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language brilliantly.

Conclusion

I don’t think it is an essential piece of kit for a teacher, but then again what is? Even the humble pencil is a piece of tech and you can certainly teach without one, it’s just more difficult [note the smartwatch isn’t as important as the pencil]. I’ve found android wear quite fun to play with (but I love gadgets) and I have found it useful in some classroom situations.

I’d love to see some improvements in being able to monitor my lessons plans on the device (I usually write my plans on Evernote now, and checking on my phone feels bad, I feel that checking on my watch would seem less obvious) and some more apps.

I’m also really interested in the idea of students with wearables and how that affects them. Of course there will be the notification management issues that everyone faces but tools like setting quick timers, conducting quick voice searches (in English), and so on could be interesting, especially if they can’t be distracted by the plethora of apps on their devices.

What are your thoughts/experiences of wearables in the classroom?

About Chris Wilson

I'm an English Language teacher based in Krakow, Poland. I enjoy writing, using technology and playing the Ukulele.

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